Joe Sarnicola special for the citizen
Frances C. Hansen is a trained glass artist, makes quality children’s and infant’s clothing, is a photographer, and has featured in articles in The Old Schoolhouse, Brain and Life, and The American Journal of Nursing. In addition to this list, she holds a degree in graphic design and she is both a registered nurse and a certified nurse legal counsellor.
But this article is about Fran’s latest project: She recently published “Dancing Under Evergreens,” a memoir about caring for her husband as he suffered from PTSD, multiple sclerosis, and the effects of exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam.
In a chapter titled “Night of Fear,” Fran describes one of the early episodes of her husband Phil’s struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder. He thought he was back in Vietnam, surrounded by enemy forces. Fran was eight months pregnant with her first child and she was driving. His brother-in-law, who was also in the car, had persuaded Phil to let Fran drive.
Quoting the book, “At that time, to him, the cornfield was elephant grass in the jungle, and we were in a jeep surrounded by the enemy. … The trees along the road Their branches groped us like tentacles, drawing us closer to the tall grass where Phil believed the enemy was.The damp smell of autumn leaves wafted through the air.
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Fran described her reason for writing the book, a process that began at the turn of the new century, shortly after her husband’s death in March 1999. “Writing the book was cathartic. At one point we were homeless with three children and everything was falling apart. I started writing as a form of therapy. Eventually, I had 25 chapters.
There were three children in the family with little money, dependent on pantries as they lived in a one-room shack. In addition to caring for her now totally dependent husband, Fran homeschooled her children. Complicating the situation were frequent visits by therapists and orderlies, and trips to hospitals and clinics.
Writing has always been part of Fran’s life. On her website, she posted, “I’ve always loved writing. It started with ninth-grade essays on “My Mom’s Old Shoes” and the time I mistakenly ate mothballs in March. Stories about walking barefoot through the cemetery and my pet, Bozo, always came back to me with high marks. I had found a place where my imagination could lead me to exhibit real-life experiences.
Fran also explained the significance of the title, writing in the last passage of the book: “Somewhere between Hartwick and Oneonta, evergreen trees grow in droves on the hills. (Phil) stops the car, looks at me and smiles. ‘Are you ready?’
He turns on the radio, gets out of the car and opens my door. He puts his arm around my waist. We switch to music as the evergreens watch.
Fran’s book was published after researching various publishers and publication methods. She eventually settled on Book Locker Press. “Dancing Under Evergreens” is available through Amazon and can also be ordered directly from the publisher. An e-book version should be available soon.
Joe Sarnicola is a craft artist and the president of the Finger Lakes Art Council, and can be reached at [email protected] or (315) 224-5071. For more information, visit facebook.com/fingerlakesartcouncil.